Got some room in your schedule for an elective or two? Avoid the temptation to fill that spot with an “easy A,” a course that’s rumored to be super-easy, or something you think won’t require much work.
Hey, you’re investing upwards of $30,000 in your college education. Why not make the most of your experience? Because as the 8.5% unemployed college graduates under 24 will tell you, sometimes that degree isn’t enough to land you a job. And you just might wish you skipped that blow-off class to take something a little more worthwhile.
One option would be to consider online learning opportunities, giving yourself the flexibility to intern or work part-time and build up your resume. Use our convenient online tool to search through online college options:
You can also boost your job prospects by opting to take certain classes. Here are some courses and ideas to add value to your college education:
Finance: Finance-related courses can not only be an asset in your career, they can also help you better manage your own money. A basic foundation in accounting can be helpful in your job search, and help you manage your own personal budget. The same is true for courses dealing with investments. In general, those in their 20s aren’t thinking too much about investing or retirement. But this is a huge mistake, since the earlier you start, the better. Learning about investments in this setting can give you a leg up on your peers.
Business: These courses, especially for non-business majors, are a good way to make your degree more marketable, whatever it is. Whether you’re studying art or math, adding business classes to the mix can open the doors to the corporate world. Look for courses in business communications, management, and marketing to start. These are especially valuable if you think you’d like to open your own business one day. Want to turn that cupcake passion into a bakery? Your irresistible vanilla cream frosting isn’t going to be enough. You’re going to need to know how to run a business.
Economics: Forbes says taking a course in economics is one of the college courses that will make “any college grad employable.” You’ll learn the role of value and prices, supply and demand, inflation and interest rates, and international economic issues. Look for basic courses, such as intro to economics, principles of microeconomics, or principles of macroeconomics.
Engineering: Classes in engineering, along with math, science, and technology, are common gaps, especially for liberal arts majors, according to CNBC. These courses often teach students to take a logical approach to advanced problems, something we’re all bound to encounter in our careers.
Statistics: Any career that involves research will benefit from a statistics course, according to Hercampus.com. From finance to psychology, there are many careers that involve an element of statistics. And as companies increasingly rely on data to drive decisions, the ability to make sense of consumer trends or website metrics will make you an asset.
Computers: Any course where you’re learning technology or something to do with computers is going to be like a gold star on your resume. Graphic design courses will likely amp up your skills in Adobe and Photoshop. Take courses in Web design to learn HTML and how to create webpages. Regardless of your field, knowledge of technology will be helpful. The same is true for courses that teach or integrate social media. Almost every business is going to have a need for some type of social media marketing, so that knowledge can give you a boost.
Writing: Don’t overlook the importance of basic writing skills. From writing a marketing plan in a business setting, copy for your Web design job, creating a lesson plan for your teaching job, or simply emailing your coworkers or manager, it’s worth your time to gain practice honing your writing skills. The College Board says regardless of career, writing skills are important. Even the basics, like sentence structure and grammar, are essential for resume writing, composing a cover letter, and sending out all those work emails. Mashable says 28% of a 40-hour workweek is spent writing and reading emails, so you better know how to produce a well-written one.
Specifically, public-relations writing could be a good opportunity to learn about writing press releases and media pitches, and a business writing course can be ideal for writing business proposals or plans.
And regardless of what your professional career might be, if you hone your writing skills, you could land some freelance writing or editing gigs to earn extra money. Studying to be a nurse? There are a lot of health publications that would love to have a nurse contributing to their magazine or website. The same is true for any specialization or career.
Public speaking: People dread taking a speech class, and many people identify public speaking as their biggest fear. Like it or not, at some point in your career, you’ll probably have to make a presentation in front of an audience. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get, and the more comfortable you’ll be speaking to a crowd.
That process you’ll learn in speech class is going to be similar to what it’s like when preparing a presentation in your career. You’ll learn how to compose a speech, the importance of eye contact and other nonverbal factors, and, simply put, how to create and deliver a presentation that’s engaging. You’ll probably walk away from the class identifying your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to public speaking and how to improve any issues.
International studies: The Chicago Tribune names international-studies courses in a list of essential college courses for job seekers. In today’s corporate economy, you’ll need business skills in a global environment. Going into journalism, photography, or hospitality and tourism? Depending on which direction you go in these fields, an international perspective is going to be essential. This is also helpful if you’re planning to take some time after graduation to travel abroad or if you’re going to study abroad.
Foreign languages: The National Council of State Supervisors for Languages reports that knowledge of a second language can lead to more job opportunities. In fact, don’t be surprised if it’s a requirement for many jobs. While Spanish could be the obvious choice, as Pew Research Reports says 37.6 million people in America speak Spanish, consider your career path to determine which language would be best for you.
History: Inc.com suggests that a history class is beneficial, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs, since you can learn from mistakes of historical figures. Plus, if a research paper is involved, it’s a good way to get experience judging the validity of different sources.
Internships: Many schools offer college credits for completing a qualifying internship. Internships are a hugely beneficial opportunity to give you valuable work experience, master new skills you can’t learn in a classroom, enhance your resume and portfolio, and meet people in your field. Often these opportunities can lead to a full-time job after graduation or, at the very least, a letter of recommendation or job reference if you do a good job. Check out our Guide to Internships for more information on how to find one that’s right for you and how to get the most out of the experience.
Courses based on your major and desired career path: While the courses mentioned above are great for a general guideline, what courses and skills might help you in your career? For example, a journalism major might want to take some classes in photography in addition to writing classes to make herself more marketable. An aspiring broadcaster might want to take some political science courses to gain a better understanding of politics before reporting on the subject, or a world geography class to get a better grasp on that topic. Those going into marketing or sales could benefit from psychology courses to learn more about human behavior.
If you’re not sure, ask your academic advisor for course recommendations.
Earning a Double Major or Minor
There’s also the option of taking on a second major or a minor course of study. If you entered college with Advanced Placement courses under your belt, tested out of courses, take courses over summer session, or are opting to take the maximum course load, you might have the time to pursue these options with your extra classes. Here are some things to consider:
- A second major or a minor could be a great way to master another subject and make yourself more flexible for future careers, according to The New York Times.
- Listing this minor or second major on a resume shows you did more than the required coursework to graduate and can also show that you’re driven, organized, and goal oriented. You can opt for a second major or minor that complements your current course of study. Majoring in fashion merchandising and minoring in marketing will go well together, for example.
- On the other hand, you can opt for something totally different to diversify yourself. If you’re majoring in English, you can opt for something more science-based, such as biology or math.
- You’re going to lose the ability to take a versatile list of electives and other courses since you need to focus on your required courses. You may not be able to dabble in an eclectic schedule of courses in subjects such as foreign languages, computers, or psychology.
- Pursuing a second major or minor means more required courses. This will mean a less flexible schedule since courses are offered only at specific dates and times and possibly not even every semester. It might be harder to plan your semester and harder to work while you’re in school.
Certificate or Concentration
If you don’t have the time or desire to pursue a second major or a minor, you could choose to earn a certificate or concentration instead, if your college offers it. At Northern Illinois University’s College of Business, for instance, not only can you earn a bachelor of science in marketing or a minor in marketing, but you can also achieve a certificate in retail management, professional selling, or interactive marketing.
Check out what types of certificates and specializations your college offers to see if one would give your education a boost and put your career search a step ahead.
Concurrent Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs
Some colleges offer students the opportunity to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the same time. At the University of Colorado at Boulder, you can earn both in psychology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, finance and accounting, applied mathematics, and about a dozen more programs.
If you’ve got the time in your college schedule, why not turn those needed courses into a rich, rewarding global experience? Studying abroad will give you the unique experience of immersing yourself in a culture and learning in a whole new environment. Besides that, you’ll also be able to market your study-abroad experience while looking for a job. Living abroad shows you’re open-minded, responsible, and willing to take chances.
You’ll want to be certain your courses count toward your graduation requirements. And just like all other courses, look for scholarships and financial aid before making the journey abroad.
If you’ve graduated from college, what were the most beneficial courses you took? On the other hand, which courses do you wish you had taken in college?